Glorious Stories

[reprinted from December 16, 2009]

–Henry Neufeld

13After they had left, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the child and his mother and flee into Egypt, and stay there until I tell you otherwise.” 14So he got up, took the child and his mother at night, and went to Egypt. 15And he was there until the death of Herod. This was so that what was spoken by the prophet might be fulfilled: “I have called my son out of Egypt.”      Matthew 2:13-15 (HN)

Let me sound complicated for a moment. We each have some set of metaphors for our life. A metaphor is something that is carried over. It’s a way of expressing something indirectly. We use metaphors more than we believe.

For example, the psalmist says: “Oh that I had wings like a dove, for then would I fly away and be at rest” (Psalm 55:6). Now nobody expects us to literally fly away and get into a nest, but the imagery is very powerful. It works for many of us when we’re tired.

As a nation, we have stories. Here in the United States, one of the major defenses of our freedom is the story of how we got them, how our founding documents were written, and how our founding fathers fought and acted in order to create this nation. Yes, I know, there are the documents themselves, and there are traditions of freedom passed from generation to generation, but have you noticed that we can hardly debate politics without making reference to the story of how these people acted and what they intended? The national story becomes part of our discussion.

One of the key stories of the Bible was the story of the exodus from Egypt. It involved escape from bondage, dramatic divine action, good leadership, conflict, and finally success. It was a story that shaped Israel. The prophets of Israel could hardly talk about their country without talking about the exodus. When they were taken into exile in Babylon and then returned they interpreted that story according to the exodus. They told the stories together, and the national story grew.

Jesus came to join the national story of Israel, and as such, he adds new dimensions to the story of rescue from bondage, of trouble, hardship, oppression, and then rescue. It’s a powerful story, and Matthew wants you to tie it all together.

What’s so important about stories? I’m going to suggest that there are overriding stories of your life, and you talk about events in your life according to those stories. Some people have as their main story all the things that have gone wrong in their lives, the way they have been mistreated, and how impossible it is for anything to change. They don’t have to say, “I’m never going to amount to anything.” The story of their life does it for them. Others, even many who have had great difficulties, tell stories of hope. They tend to remember and repeat good things. They don’t have to say, “I’m going somewhere!” Their life stories do it for them.

God enacted a story of redemption in the Bible. The story is repeated over and over. When things get really bad, God is there, redeeming. Matthew tells us in our passage today that Jesus experiences that same story as one of us. Jesus repeatedly tells the story of redemption throughout his life, and his death and resurrection again repeat that story of redemption.

Jody pointed out to me the silence in church when stories are told of people coming to Christ, or of miracles that happen in people’s lives. Why is it that we treat this kind of testimony as routine. A profession of faith, a baptism, [yawn]. It’s just the routine life of the church.

I think the problem is that we don’t really take in the story. What we do is add the “church story” to all those other dead stories in our lives. We don’t really expect things to change. But when we come to Christ, and are “buried with him by baptism into his death” (Romans 6:4) we have joined the story of Jesus. We have joined the story of God’s redemption.

We’re called out of the water into a new life. Our life story should now be about getting called out. Are you entrenched in failure? You are called out! Are you burdened by sin? You are called out! Are your relationships failing? You are called out? Do you feel far from God? You are called out!

Let the fundamental story of your life change. I don’t know what it was. But in Christ, it should be this: Called out for glory!

 

 

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